Expressions of hate have been exploding over the past year. Whether it’s on the news, on social media or in real life, now we hear almost daily accounts of antisemitism, anti-Black racism, anti-trans slurs, anti-LGBT+ attacks, poor bashing and anti-immigrant outbursts. Even in Peterborough. What is going on? And why now? And why these target groups?
It would be naive to just blame the ripple effects of the Trump presidency. But the Trump effect, coupled with the pandemic, the outbreak of war in Europe, the worsening climate crisis, the bloated cost of living and the extreme income inequality surely must be factored into this toxic stew. Whatever the causes of this grim trend, all of these factors are multiplied and disseminated by the Internet, social media and our 24-hour news cycle. When bad news happens anywhere, we all know about it within minutes.
Our political dialogue is becoming poisonous at all levels. Even in Canada’s parliament, politicians no longer strive to understand each other. Instead, they engage in rage-farming, that lovely term for whipping up anger and hatred. The expression of rage and the ability to stimulate it in voters have become one of today’s most esteemed political skill sets. Snide put-downs and stinging one-liners have replaced thoughtful debates.
In a historical sense, our society has been here before. The 1930s, otherwise known as the Dirty Thirties, shared many of the frightening dynamics we see in our current decade. Back then, there was extreme income disparity. There was the Great Depression and loss of employment. People were looking for scapegoats. There was a huge spike in antisemitism. There was a global shift to more right-wing governments. Moderates were deposed by tyrants. That decade ended with the rise of fascism and the outbreak of World War II. That war ultimately led to the deaths of over 40 million people.
We could spend hours on international trends, history, and systemic causes of hate. Who is to blame? While such an analysis might provide a more complete context for the current moment, what can this exploration really tell us about what is going on in Peterborough right now? Bigotry and hatred are constant undercurrents in any community in Ontario. But until recently, those undercurrents stayed out of sight and remained unexpressed. Now they are crawling out of the dark and in full view for all to see.
Finally, a few words about our panel. As listeners, you should know who you are about to listen to; we are a diverse collection of individuals of assorted ages, backgrounds, genders and political inclinations. Some of us are members of groups who have been victims of hatred. All of us live in Peterborough. All of us have a stake in creating a community free of hate. Thanks to panellists Stephen Wright, Jill Tilley, Annie Jaeger and Dane Bland for taking part in this panel discussion. This episode was recorded online on December 17, 2022.